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Image Before My Eyes - A History of Jewish Life in Poland Before
Image Before My Eyes - A History of Jewish Life in Poland Before
Director: Joshua Waletzky
Genres: Documentary, Military & War
NR     2006     1hr 30min

A stunning commemoration of Jews in Poland before the two World Wars, IMAGE BEFORE MY EYES pays homage to the dynamic and vibrant society of 3.5 million people that was destroyed during the Holocaust. Unearthing the storie...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: Joshua Waletzky
Creators: Edward Gray, Joel Gold, Joshua Waletzky, Susan Lazarus, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Jerome Badanes, Lucjan Dobroszycki
Genres: Documentary, Military & War
Sub-Genres: History, Jewish Heritage, Military & War, Military & War
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/25/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/1981
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1981
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A poignant look at a vanished world
Veggiechiliqueen | 02/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Image Before My Eyes: A History of Jewish Life in Poland combines historical footage, still photographs, and live interviews for an in-depth reminiscence of Jewish life in Poland from the beginning of the 20th century until the Holocaust.

It features a deeper look at the rise of many social and religious movements such as socialist groups and Zionism, rural and urban Polish Jewish life, and the flourishing of Yiddish culture through literature, theater and music.

The documentary was released over twenty years ago, so the video interviews are obviously dated (late 1970's), and some of the archival footage is in poor condition, but Image Before My Eyes restores us to a vanished world -- the vibrant cultural legacy of Poland's 3.5 million Jews that was nearly wiped out by the Holocaust.

The DVD includes a commentary with director Josh Waltzky, an illustrated study guide with discussion questions, and scene selection.
A look into the past
David Smith | Penn Valley, PA USA | 02/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The images speak to one. This compilation of pre world war II Jewish Polish daily life is gripping. This is a DVD that we will watch over and over."
A moving look back
Michael W. Perry | Author of Untangling Tolkien, Seattle, WA | 12/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When I lived in Israel, the sense of tragedy I felt when I visited the Israel Museum was almost as great at that I felt at Yad Vashem, which is specifically dedicated to the Holocaust. The latter focused on the people who died, the former chronicles with great love and much detail the culture that was lost.

This film chronicles both the people and culture of Eastern Europe that were forever altered by the events of World War II. It has a special focus on the once large and thriving Jewish culture of Poland and includes marvelous home movies made during the 1930s. Perhaps most important of all, it was first released in 1980, when it was still possible to find many living voices to that now departed era. As those living voices depart, it's important to capture their memories in a tangible form.

I'd strong recommend that parents show this documentary to their children when they're old enough to understand what it describes, and that teachers show it to their students.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Dachau Liberated and Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II"
Vivid portrayal of Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the
z hayes | TX | 03/18/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Image Before My Eyes" is a searing and vivid account of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, primarily Poland, from the beginning of the 20th century to the Holocaust. The documentary is made up of archival film footage, still photographs, and live interviews with Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Their testimony lends an authentic and compelling voice to the narration of lives led by the Jews in Poland before the horrors of the Holocaust.

In 1939, there were 3.5 million Jews in Poland and at the end of WW II, only 250,000 survived. A rich cultural tradition, 900 years long, was practically decimated by the Nazis and their collaborators. In Part One "The Setting", viewers are provided a glimpse of Poland before WW I. Farming was the main economic activity, especially amongst the Gentiles. There were not many Jews in the farming villages, and most Jews resided in towns or shtetls. Video reels of the period (the quality may not be very clear, but the fact that these evidence of vibrant Jewish life actually survived the war is a marvel in itself) portray life in the shtetls - the sense of camaraderie and community is strong. One survivor, Chiena Kossowksy recalls life in one such shtetl, her voice lending credence to what was and is now gone forever. Photographs of monumental wooden synagogues which were a hallmark of Jewish life in the shtetls show viewers the magnitude of the loss, as they were destroyed by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. Also interesting is the contrast between the shtetl Jews and the city Jews. One survivor, Roman Eisner, recalls the ambivalence he felt as a Jew - though proud to be a Jew, Roman expressed a dislike for dressing differently, feeling that there was no need for a Jew to openly identify himself as one through outward appearance, a view not shared by the orthodox Jews. Eisner also paints a vivid picture of the poor Jews who literally carried the tools of their trade on their backs.

Part Two "To The Stars" focuses on the First World War and the effect it had on the Jews and community at large. Many able-bodied Jewish men fought in the war on different sides - Russian, Austrian, German, even Polish. Many returned from the war to impoverished circumstances, and the families that lost husbands and fathers were in the worst shape economically. Yet amidst these trials, certain aspects of Jewish life thrived, such as the Yiddish theater.

Part Three "Among the Organized" looks at organized Jewish recreational activities such as the marching band, symphony orchestra, the Jewish film industry, etc. It also, perhaps more importantly, focuses on the growing political consciousness amongst Jewish youth, who joined various organizations and identified themselves as either Torah socialists, Zionist socialists, Bundists, etc.

Part Four "Darkening Clouds" sees the rise of Fascist regimes in parts of Europe, the herald of darker things to come for the Jews who gradually saw their lives restricted and suppressed through various laws and acts of anti-Semitism.

The most compelling part of this documentary for me was the real-life interviews with survivors - this documentary was released in 1981 and to hear these survivors talk about a life that existed before the horrors of the Holocaust, a life spent in the company of loved ones, of friends rejoicing in the experiences of youth lends this documentary a compelling 'voice', one that has become increasingly rare as the number of survivors dwindle with the passage of time. To me this makes documentaries like "Image Before My Eyes" invaluable and a must-have resource for Holocaust education."